Tal National, Kaani

Richard Gehr

By Richard Gehr

on 09.10.13 in Reviews


Tal National
A revelation of updated traditionalism from West Africa

West Africa’s largest nation, Niger, has one of the region’s smallest musical profiles. But that should change once the world gets wind of Kaani, the thrilling third album (and first export) by Tal National, a Niamey-based group that emits as much jubilant energy as any on at least a couple of continents. Formed in 2000 by guitarist (and current municipal judge) Hamadal “Almeida” Moumine, Tal National combines high-speed contrapuntal guitar lines, hard chikita-chikita beats, and chattering mbalax-flavored talking drums into a breakneck polyrhythmic skein. “Kaani” means “sweet” in the Zarma tongue, and the title track is a seven-minute thrill ride that delivers an appropriate rush. The band also sings in Hausa and French, a polyglot stew reflected in music that can evoke Zairean congotronics, Sierra Leonan Bubu and Kenyan benga without sacrificing any originality. Tighter than 2010′s A-Na Waya, Kaani is a revelation of updated traditionalism in a regional scene currently noted more for exceptional crate dives than the intoxicating here-and-now.